Huskies face defining matchup in Rose Bowl

UCLA mickens

UCLA mickens -

Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens is one of 39 Huskies making a trip home to the Los Angeles area this weekend as the Huskies play UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Photo by Andrew Tat

The Rose Bowl is where the Washington football team wanted to spend New Year’s Day. After a three-game losing streak in October all but doomed the UW’s Pac-12 North title hopes, the Huskies will likely spend Jan. 1 otherwise occupied. Friday, they’ll get a taste of what they’ll be missing.

The Huskies (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) head to Los Angeles to play No. 13 UCLA (7-2, 4-2) in the Rose Bowl on Friday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN 2. While the venue for this week’s game is one of the most storied places in college football, their goals for this month have not changed: Run the table and finish strong.

“It’s a championships caliber [place],” defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha said of the Rose Bowl. “Whoever is up in the top teams goes there, so you want to be in that group of teams to go there to the Rose Bowl … But just like anything else, we can’t think about it too much, and let it become a distraction.”

After a soft three weeks which included games against the conference’s two-worst teams and a bye week, the Huskies can’t afford any distractions. They’re still on the outside looking in for the national rankings after their 1-3 October knocked them out. This week, the Huskies got nine votes in the AP poll: A win Friday might be enough to break them into the top 25.

But the UW has historically struggled on the road under head coach Steve Sarkisian. The latest road disaster for the Huskies occurred Oct. 19 against Arizona State when the Sun Devils embarrassed the Huskies by pulling a 53-24 beatdown. To top it all off, there are some freshmen on the UW campus who weren’t even born the last time the Huskies beat UCLA in Los Angeles in 1995.

For the 39 players on the UW roster from Southern California who are making a homecoming trip this weekend, the prospect of coming back home and playing in front of their friends and family is exciting. But not nearly as exciting as the prospect of ending the UW’s Rose Bowl losing streak and moving forward in the season.

“It’s just another game for us, just a different location,” said middle linebacker John Timu, a native of Long Beach, Calif. “It’s home, but it’s just a business trip.”

The Huskies seem to have an unbreakable devotion to Sarkisian’s mantra of sticking to the process. Immediately after last weekend’s rout of Colorado, the Huskies were watching game film and preparing for the matchup with UCLA in the locker room. Sarkisian made it clear that the UW’s goal is to be a perfect 4-0 in November to finish the season. With one win this month down, the UW’s next opportunity comes Friday at the Rose Bowl. None of the Huskies have played in the historic stadium as the UW hasn’t played UCLA on the road since 2009. Sarkisian hopes Friday is just a precursor to what could come down the road for the Huskies.

“To play in the Rose Bowl in January is the ultimate goal,” Sarkisian said. “So to get a taste of the venue in the regular season at some point in their career I think is really motivating.”

Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21

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